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400,000 Breathless Seals

The Annual East Canadian Mammal Massacre


Every April, the federal government of Canada opens up its waters to hunters in a commercial seal slaughter so that consumers can wear seal pelts. Mother harp seals have their babies on bodies of ice near Prince Edward Island. Then they leave their babies, who cannot swim or fend for themselves. Soon after the mothers are all gone, the seal hunters come in and inhumanly kill the frightened pups. These harp seals pups are hooked in the eye or mouth, dragged across ice, shot or bludgeoned with clubs, and skinned—sometimes alive.

The government quota of dead seals is a breathless 400,000. The species is greatly at risk. We can have some faith in humanity here. This year, probably because of a ban by the United States and by the European Union on seal pelts and increased awareness and action among consumers, fewer boats than usual in the past have set out to massacre. Animal activist groups are thus hoping that the quota of 400,000 seals is not met. This would be a step toward the end, but let us not forget the seal pups that have suffered and died already this year.

Of course, I wonder: What do the animals think? How do the baby seals feel about this tragedy? Do the mothers somehow know this is going on? Here, I will talk to them:

A baby harp seal pup, who is now dead but who earlier in the week basked playfully and innocently in the sun on glaciers, said, “I felt the vibration first of the boat in the water and the movement of the ice. Before the boat arrived, the ice moved slowly, almost as if it was rocking me. When the boat came toward me, the ice started to tremble then crack. That first frightened me. My support was unstable. I saw first a pup farther away turn red and the smell was strong. My body raced inside and I did not understand the sensations of terror.

“I cannot explain the feeling of pain that I experienced. I was hooked and dragged. My eyes went blind from the blood dripping down my face. I did not die right away. They threw me on a pile of other seals. Some were moaning. I felt spirits around me trying to pull me out of my body but my body was not letting me go. The moaning of the other seals comforted me. I caught a glimpse of a man and the darkness of his beard. For a moment I thought he looked a bit like a seal but then I saw his eyes. They were black and bloodshot. I knew instantly that he was not of a kind nature. I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t know if this was life. I didn’t know about death. I died much later from the weight of the other seals on top of me.”

I asked the seal what he wanted to say. He answered, “I want to say that these people do not understand the quality of life inside each being. They do not understand life force and how we are connected to their world more than they can imagine. If our species dies, their species will come closer to dying out. They are of wrong mind. They are confused.”

A mother of one of the slaughtered harp seals said, “All of us know of this slaughter. We have known about it for years. Each year we try to find safer places but it seems never to be successful. We hear the cries of our babies deep down inside of us. We mourn and cannot eat for days. We see it all in our mind’s eye as if it is happening right in front of us. We do not know how to stop it. We are programmed to travel those distances, to those bodies of ice, and we do not know how to change. It has become part of us — knowing that our babies may be slaughtered.

“There are many changes coinciding with this slaughter. The ice is melting faster. The waters are warmer. The fish we eat are not as fulfilling. The sun feels brighter on our skin. This gives us pains in our head and our neck. Our species is not doing well. Every year we know this is a possible fate for our pups.”

I asked her if she knows that people are fighting for their survival. She answers, “We can feel an immense amount of love and concern for us. It gives us hope yet we do not experience change.”

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